This year marks the tenth year of the Rackham/Sweetland Dissertation Writing Institute. Past participants frequently cite the value of being able to come to an office and prioritize writing the dissertation “as if it were a job.” I think there’s a great deal in that comparison. The assumption is perhaps that it’s easier to produce work when, having accepted a job, we become required to produce. Also, while we’re at work the rest of the world knows we’re doing something tangible enough to be paid for it. There’s the feeling that we’re “supposed to be at work,” and that while we’re there we shouldn’t be disturbed. As writers, however, we seldom get to write without the pressures exerted by our environments. It’s sometimes difficult to communicate to other people the value of sitting for hours with the project, or to put into words measures of productivity, and it’s very easy to judge ourselves solely by their measures: completed chapters.
It’s true the Rackham/Sweetland Dissertation Writing Institute has many of the regularizing features of a day job. We provide an office with a computer for eight weeks and a $3000 stipend, we require participants to work in their offices for at least six hours Monday through Friday, and we hold weekly check-ins on progress. But I like to think of the Institute as a writing retreat, where writers have the time and resources to explore the writing in a deep and sustained way. The process is often circuitous, and writers get to meet with a Sweetland writing consultant as often as they like, as they talk out the project, narrating its greater and smaller arcs, wrestling with its central questions, solving problems, and talking themselves towards greater focus. Ultimately, dissertation writers are also interested in completed chapters. The Rackham/Sweetland Dissertation Writing Institute creates a space for productivity and supports the writer in the process of their completion.
February 1 Department Nominations due
February 27 Student applications due (hard copy)
More information on the features of the Dissertation Writing Institute and the application process may be found at http://www.lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/forstudents.
About the Author
Paul Barron, Co-Director, Rackham/Sweetland Dissertation Writing Institute
Published in: Resources and Events